A time of plenty
  |  First Published: February 2005

After a busy mouth with a seemingly endless stream of holidaymakers pulling into town, The Rocks should be back to its more stable ‘normal’ population of around 5000 this month.

The holiday season was a great time for local businesses and the fishing wasn’t bad, either, with many exciting game fish hitting the coast just wide of Trial Bay Jail.

All in all, it’s a time of plenty for our town on and off the water.

While some residents refused to fish until the crowds dispersed, if the fish were biting, I was out there!

A few billfish have hit the reefs just off the Jail. They’re certainly not thick but there are enough fish to keep the diehard marlin addicts keen.

The past two seasons have seen the billfish show in mid-December and bite sporadically until early January, then disappear until mid February. So far everything seems much the same with the inshore blacks looking like thinning out through January.

If things are a little slow at present, don’t despair; the billfish usually fire up nicely in a week or two, peaking from February until late March.


With the onset of warm water, mahi mahi have been found around most things that float wide of 36 fathoms.

DPI Fisheries repositioned the FAD from the 36-fathom reefs 4km wide of the Jail to the 60-fathom reefs 11km east of Trial Bay. The logic was the wider off the coast it’s positioned, the more current it’s likely to get, attracting more pelagic game fish like mahi mahi, marlin and so on.

When positioned on the 36-fathom reef, the FAD seemed to drift off the mark far too easily. Many a trip out saw the FAD a considerable distance south, or it simply wasn’t there, broken free and adorning some distant beach.

In the short time it’s been out in 60 fathoms it’s held its ground but there hasn’t been any great run from the north to test its holding powers. Hopefully it will withstand the raging currents in the coming month and will be there for some time.

On a reasonable day it’s a fair run out in a smallish trailer boat, and way too far out to find it’s simply not there. If it is, you can expect some feisty dollies from 2kg to 5kg and perhaps the odd bigger specimen if you stay a tad wider.

With the influx of good blue water, resident kings at Fish Rock and Black Rock have fired up nicely. Fish up to 17kg have been caught recently with plenty of solid fish from 3kg to 5kg.

Depending on the day, you may have to sift through plenty of undersized fish so take care with your measuring and make sure they’re definitely more than 60cm before putting them in the esky.

I haven’t heard a great deal about the snapper fishing but this is usually a pretty good time for big fish close to shore. You may not find large numbers of fish like you do in late Winter but the ones found are usually of a better size.

Keys to success seem to be fish late afternoons in around 20 to 30 metres and keep the berley trail flowing. Many a fish over 6kg is caught during the warmer months with the occasional bruiser to 9kg.

In the Macleay River the good run of big flathead seems to have slowed with many fish dispersing from the lower reaches. It seems they have finished their spawning run, spreading throughout the system again.

Some big fish were caught this season, with the biggest almost 10kg. Sadly, she wasn’t released, but quite a few big breeders were carefully set free to help keep the Macleay flathead fishery in good shape.


A few weeks back a group a shameless spearfishermen sneaked along the South Wall and speared quite a few big breeding flathead. This is totally unethical and very illegal so if you see anyone snorkelling the Macleay River below the main boat ramp, and from the Kemps Corner up, ring Fisheries immediately.

The sooner some of these mugs get fined the better. The mighty Macleay gets flogged enough without rogue spearfishers cleaning out the walls as well.

Resident bream seem have packed their bags and slowly edged their way back up river, taking up residence well above Jerseyville bridge in the main river and up the small feeder creeks like Clybucca, Belmore and Kinchela.

This is prime time for flicking hard-body and soft plastic lures around fallen timber, rock walls and bridge and jetty pylons. It’s also a good time to try your hand at surface plugs and flies, with small Dahlberg Divers and 2” poppers usually producing the goods at dawn and dusk.

Bass fishos are enjoying a steady run from Kempsey bridge up. More adventurous anglers have been trying their luck way up-river, fishing the rocky pools all the way to Georges Junction. There’s enough good bass country between Kempsey and Georges Junction to keep any keen bass angler busy for a lifetime so take the canoe and enjoy the peace and serenity on your own rocky pool.

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